Host Thoko Moyo speaks with leading experts in public policy, media, and international affairs about their experiences confronting the world's most pressing public problems.
225 Staying Power: Tony Saich on 100 Years of the Chinese Communist Party
The Chinese Communist Party rules a country that is already an economic superpower and is poised to become a military and geopolitical one as the 21st Century unfolds. But Harvard Kennedy School Professor Tony Saich says the party’s 100th birthday next month is also a time to remember the party’s struggles and humble beginnings. From it’s early days as Soviet-supported client and its existential struggles with the Chinese Nationalists; to the tragic excesses of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution; to its economic transformation and growing middle class, the party has made disastrous errors as well as successes. But through it all, Saich says, the party has shown a remarkable ability to survive, adapt, and maintain control of 1.4 billion people. That’s why understanding China’s politics is crucial for the future of everything from the world economy to the climate crisis to international human rights. Professor Saich, the director of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, has written a new book due out next month called “From Rebel to Ruler: One Hundred Years of the Chinese Communist Party.” He talks to host Ralph Ranalli about the party’s past and why understanding it is important for the future.
224 Between blind faith and denial: Finding a productive approach to merging policy, science, and technology
With a new administration taking power in Washington, many people who had been alarmed by partisan attacks on science and expertise breathed a sigh of relief, thinking that science would be restored to its rightful place in policymaking. But what is that rightful place? Harvard Kennedy School Professor Sheila Jasanoff says that’s a more complex question than most of us might think. Jasanoff has pioneered the field of Science, Technology, and Society studies — also known as STS. It’s an academic discipline that explores the complex interplay between how science and technology affect our society and how societal forces like politics, commerce, and human nature can shape the pursuit of scientific inquiry and technological development. While rejecting science has serious consequences, scientists are also human, Jasanoff says, and simple faith in experts “is every bit as unwarranted as faith in angels.” She tells PolicyCast host Thoko Moyo that achieving a balance — an informed society that’s appropriately skeptical and a scientific community that’s responsive to skepticism and human considerations — is key with so many complex challenges like pandemics and climate change facing our world today.
223 Democracy’s uncertain prospects 10 years after the Arab Spring
Ten years after the rise of the pro-democracy movements collectively dubbed “the Arab Spring” the Arab world is a complicated mix of governments and societies that have evolved in vastly different ways. There have been democratic successes like Tunisia, setbacks like Egypt, and failed states like Yemen and Libya. In some places like Saudia Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, authoritarians have evolved to meet the threat to their power. In others, like Iraq and Lebanon, democratic impulses still exist but representative government hangs precariously in the balance. Harvard Kennedy School Professor Tarek Masoud is the faculty chair of the Middle East Initiative and a knowledgeable observer of the Arab world’s politics. He joins host Thoko Moyo to explore what has happened over the past 10 years, what lies ahead, and what the new US administration can do to support democracy in a region where many still view it with suspicion.
222 Joe Aldy on how Joe Biden can jumpstart the global climate effort
Twelve years ago, Aldy was a member of then President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team as it took over from the George W. Bush administration. He says the objective then was much the same as it is now—figuring out how to push aggressive measures to stave off the worst effects of climate change while bringing back lost jobs and jump-starting a stalled economy. But comparisons only go so far. Aldy says in many ways Biden’s challenges are more formidable: A much shorter window to transform our energy infrastructure, a struggling economy made even worse by a raging pandemic, and a country even more polarized and in ideological conflict with itself. Professor Aldy and host Thoko Moyo explore those those challenges and discuss how the new administration can respond — and maybe even succeed.
221 Young voters ascendant: How a generational shift won the 2020 election and could remake American politics
In 2019, the 72-million strong Millennial generation (23-to-38-year-olds) quietly surpassed the Baby Boomers as America’s largest living generational cohort. In the 2020 election, they made their voices heard with a roar. Not only did younger voters—and particularly younger voters of color—turn out to vote and organize for candidates in record numbers, they also provided the margin of victory for Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in key states like Michigan, Arizona, and Pennsylvania. Our guests for this episode are Mark Gearan, director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School and director of the Peace Corps under President Bill Clinton and Marshall Ganz who teaches political organizing and trains young activists and was himself a member of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. They talk with our host Thoko Moyo about what is different about the today’s young voters and activists and how they could reshape America’s political landscape going forward.
220 Garbage in, garbage out: Dissecting the disinformation that clouds our decisions
All of the choices we make have one thing in common: Our decisions are only as good as the information we have to base them on. And with the rise of disinformation, misinformation, media manipulation, and social media echo chambers, we’re finding it increasingly hard to know what information to trust and to feel confident in the decisions we make. Harvard Kennedy School Professor Matthew Baum and Joan Donovan, the research director for the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, have been building a community of researchers and creating tools to help understand disinformation, where it comes from, and — hopefully — how to make it less of a threat in the future.